Still Alice

 

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A moving drama that showcases one of the very best performances by an actress in 2015.

 

Still Alice

 

This was the last film of the late Richard Glatzer working as ever with Wash Westmoreland and it was their finest achievement. Although based on a novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice saw them functioning as writers in addition to directing and found them transcending the problems that exist whenever a film centres on a character who has only a short time to live.

 

Here that character is a 50-year-old teacher of linguistics at Colombia University in New York. Her name is Dr Alice Howland and she has a somewhat workaholic husband (Alec Baldwin) and three children grown to adulthood, although the youngest, Lydia (Kristen Stewart), a would-be actress, is decidedly less sure-footed than her siblings. Even so Alice's life seems set in an acceptable way until a neurologist examines her and reveals that her recent memory blocks represent an early onset of Alzheimer's disease. Her condition brings her career to a premature end but in addition the visible effects of the disease will soon increase. The film follows its course and invites the audience to consider whether or not the option of suicide would eventually be a sensible choice.

 

The highly intelligent screenplay shows how Alice's children vary in their responses to her situation (the fact that the disease can be inherited adds to what they have to face). Somewhat less successful, I felt, was Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Alice's husband since at times he seems rather too distant, and there is towards the end - and for the first time - a touch of sentimentality. But overshadowing everything here is the central performance: as Alice, Julianne Moore is just wonderful. She is, of course, helped by the film's sense of forward momentum and by the quality of the writing, not least when one scene echoes an earlier one to reveal most movingly how the disease has advanced. Inevitably, this is very downbeat material, but it is lifted to the heights by Moore's brilliance. Her Alice is simply not to be missed.  

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, Daniel Gerrol, Steve Kunken, Shane McCrae.


Dir Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Pro Lex Lutzus, James Brown and Pamela Koffler, Screenplay Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, based on the book by Lisa Genova, Ph Denis Lenoir, Pro Des Tommaso Ortino, Ed Nicolas Chaudeurge, Music Ilan Eshkeri, Costumes Stacey Battat.


BSM Studio/Lutzus-Brown/Killer Films/Big Indie Pictures/Shriver Films-Artificial Eye.
101 mins. USA. 2014. Rel: 6 March 2015. Cert. 12A
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